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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 27, 2000
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                         Washington Court Hotel
                            Washington, D.C.

8:05 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I've got my "Vento" button -- (applause) -- and my "Hillary" pin. (Laughter.) And Bruce says that "Vento" means "win" in Italian, and I think they're both winners, so I like this.

First of all, I want to thank Gerry Sikorski and Vin Weber for co-chairing this event. I understand there is a slew of members of Congress here today, so I won't attempt to call all their names, but I thank them for being here. And I know Bruce's sons are here. And I think Garrison Keillor is coming, and he'll be better than me -- (laughter) -- so that will be worth waiting for.

I also want to recognize our great Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, who is celebrating his birthday tonight with Bruce Vento. (Applause.) Thank you. I like to ride Bruce about his birthday because he's older than I am and looks younger, and I resent it. (Laughter.)

I want to thank all of you for coming here to pay tribute to Bruce tonight, and to support the Bruce Vento Science Educator Scholarship Fund. I think it's quite an appropriate time to be doing this, just a day after we announced the sequencing of the human genome. On the way in, Bruce was saying, you know, that was a really exciting announcement you had yesterday. Now we've got to find a few more science teachers to explain to people what it means. (Laughter.) I thought that was pretty great.

He has been a scientist and an environmentalist since his boyhood in Minnesota. And I reminded him today that one of my most memorable times as President has been the time I spent with him in Minnesota, and with a number of others of you here from the Minnesota congressional delegation, as well.

Since 1977, he's been an advocate for science and the environment in the Congress. Some of this will be said later, but I think it's worth -- this is astonishing, and maybe even some of you don't know this -- he has steered into law more than 300 bills to protect our natural resources. (Applause.) He has led in the preservation of hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness from Minnesota's boundary waters to Alaska to American Samoa.

That would have been record enough, but the thing I like even more is that Bruce Vento cares about people, especially people without a voice -- the homeless. He's also been a leader for health care and education. And if there is anybody who has ever listened to him perform at any of these hearings, he has never stopped being a teacher. Time and time again he's reached out to bridge the gap between researchers and lay people, to help the rest of us understand both the majesty and the frailty of the natural world we inhabit.

And, tonight, as he fights a disease which has not yet yielded all its secrets to science, he's our teacher again. He has certainly shown us a lot about courage, and we're very grateful for it. (Applause.)

Bruce has become a real friend to me over these last seven and a half years. He's been an honest and trusted advisor, and he's always said exactly what he thought. And, as a consequence, I have also been his student and I have learned a great deal.

Bruce, Hillary and I admire you. We love you and we're grateful. You've made me think this being term limited is not all bad. But let me say to all of you, I think the best thing I could say about Bruce Vento is the now very famous thing Henry Adams said nearly a century ago: "A teacher affects humanity. You can never tell where his influence stops." Bruce, your influence will never stop.

Thank you all, and God bless you. (Applause.)

END 8:10 P.M. EDT